Nearby Users && Social Explorer July 8, 2012 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Can we combine nearby users with the social explorer?

So "nearby users" lets me see the other 715 Mefites who admit to living in New York, and the (practically secret) social explorer shows me the 3125 mefites on twitter. I'd like your chocolate to get in my peanut butter so I can see a list of (for example) the local twitter users.

(Also, substitute "okcupid" for "twitter" and this would be a step towards making a workable DatingFilter.)
posted by modernserf to Feature Requests at 12:15 PM (50 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Not that keen on this as an idea, leaning towards the stalkery end of the scale for me; but as long as there is demand and an opt out option in the settings then giddy up.
posted by arcticseal at 1:41 PM on July 8, 2012


If a user has already given their location details they probably are fine with it. Those who don't want to don't have to add their location details.
posted by terrapin at 1:47 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given that both the lists (nearby and social) show MeFi usernames, I'd think that someone would come along shortly and point you to a script that lets you do this quite easily.

Sometimes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I'd like MeFi to not create the whole. Those who want to, are free to do the additions on their own already.
posted by vidur at 1:54 PM on July 8, 2012


as long as there is demand and an opt outin option in the settings then giddy up.

Doing things people don't see or notice and then giving them an invisible opt-out is evil.
posted by DU at 2:21 PM on July 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh god yes, if you do this please make it an opt-in, not an opt-out. I am growing wary (and weary) of every site I use that requires a login both assuming I want everything I do on that site to be linked to everything else I do on the web and "helpfully" integrating it into real life for me without my knowledge.
posted by headnsouth at 2:28 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Giving your location is opt-in.

Giving your social networks is also opt-in.

As vidur points out, combining these lists can already be done with a userscript.

Is adding another layer of opt-in necessary?
posted by modernserf at 2:42 PM on July 8, 2012


When people opt in by entering their location data, they are not opting in to the indiscriminate use of location data in any and every context imaginable. They're opting in to use of that location data as a simple display on their profile, and also as a service displaying nearby users in said profile. This seems like it's above and beyond that opt-in, and therefore gets into Facebook territory as far as stretching opt-ins to cover whatever the hell we want them to cover, rather than what they implied in the first place.
posted by koeselitz at 3:20 PM on July 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's going to be hilarious when, 50 messages into the hashing out of whether or not this pony should be opt-out, opt-in, or neither, pb comes in and shoots it.
posted by axiom at 3:30 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


My fault, I wrote opt-out and meant opt-in.
posted by arcticseal at 3:39 PM on July 8, 2012


Yeah if this happens should be opt in.
posted by trip and a half at 3:45 PM on July 8, 2012


Giving your location is opt-in.

I gave my location on my MetaFilter profile in order to give background for questions I ask on MetaFilter, and to possibly meet people from MetaFilter IRL. I don't want my profile here linked to anything anywhere else in the real or virtual worlds or any other world that may exist at this time but I am not aware of or that may exist at some time in the future.
posted by headnsouth at 3:48 PM on July 8, 2012


I hear you, headnsouth.

I can also see you. And I know what you did.
posted by likeso at 3:58 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Reminding people again not to pull profile info into google-indexed threads, thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:05 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Folks, outing profile information here in Meta to make a point: not okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:06 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


What'd I miss what'd I miss I was off reading about folks in NYC dissing Boston. Damn. Okay. Off to read about gritstones. There are such things as gritstones. Cool.
posted by likeso at 4:16 PM on July 8, 2012


Ok, let me rephrase that.

I gave my location on my MetaFilter profile in order to give background for questions I ask on MetaFilter, and to possibly meet people from MetaFilter IRL.

And presumably you connect your twitter handle here so that other people from here can read it, right? That is exactly the purpose of this -- to help MeFites connect with other local MeFites more easily. There are 700-odd folks in the New York area, but they're not all coming to the meetups every week. However, I do have a general interest in knowing what the people who use this site AND whom live in my city are up to, in general. While I get that people have certain privacy concerns, I feel like there isn't any particularly nefarious data-mining going on here; this is taking two sets of data available to site members and combining them.

I feel like people here are saying that they're ok with other users knowing everything about them provided that it takes a couple of steps to find this out instead of one. This wouldn't even make stalking someone more convenient -- you can already go to a particular users page and see all of this info at a glance -- it would only serve to help members use our community for more location specific offsite socializing.
posted by modernserf at 4:33 PM on July 8, 2012


"I gave my location on my MetaFilter profile in order to give background for questions I ask on MetaFilter, and to possibly meet people from MetaFilter IRL. I don't want my profile here linked to anything anywhere else in the real or virtual worlds or any other world that may exist at this time but I am not aware of or that may exist at some time in the future."

But the only linking to other sites happens when you, the user, add that information in your profile.

Is everyone here understanding what is being discussed with regard to "social explorer"?

First, there's the stuff you can add to your profile about who you are on external sites. Second, there's the "social explorer" which is a thingie that lists all the mefites who have entered information in their profiles about each external site X.

So, nothing in this question involves linking your mefite identity to other identities that you have or haven't already done with existing functionality. So, as modernserf says, the requested functionality applies only to those who already have a) opted-in by including their location information and, b) opted-in by including information about their membership on other sites.

All that's being asked for is one of two things, either:

1) A filter on the social explorer that only lists the users that are the users that are listed as "nearby" in your profile; or

2) ...well, I can't see how it would work from the other direction (I was thinking of browsing first by people nearby and seeing all their affiliations, but that would be a barely usable mass of information).

So, really, all we're talking about is a filter on the social explorer that limits the results to the group of people that show up as "nearby" on your profile.

I don't see at all how people are weirded out about this. Most locations aren't New York City. Most have far fewer people listed nearby (for any value you've entered as the radius) and it's easy to look at every nearby user's profile and follow the links they've included to other sites. Anyone you worry about "stalking" you will do this as things stand now. Yeah, this means that the requested functionality is just making something easier that's already pretty easy, so that argument cuts both ways. But because the information provided (both location and other sites) is already voluntary and opt-in, then a simple filter by proximity on the social explorer is not providing anything that isn't already available and already easy to find specifically — it just makes makes both (location and other site affiliation) a bit more useful by combining that already-available information.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:40 PM on July 8, 2012


Yeah, this means that the requested functionality is just making something easier that's already pretty easy, so that argument cuts both ways.

Right. So lets keep it as the ever-so-slightly-harder way.
posted by vidur at 4:54 PM on July 8, 2012


And presumably you connect your twitter handle here so that other people from here can read it, right?

Wrong, incorrect presumption. And I don't want MetaFilter or any other site to do that for me either. What you describe is me opting in, which is what MetaFilter has now & I'm asking that the site stays that way. I want the default to be having the various discrete pieces of my online presence not linked until & unless I choose to link them myself.
posted by headnsouth at 5:15 PM on July 8, 2012


Pardon me, I was looking at koeslitz's profile, which does list his twitter profile.
posted by modernserf at 5:18 PM on July 8, 2012


In other words, headnsouth, you wouldn't be affected by this at all, since you don't list any of your social networks here.
posted by modernserf at 5:19 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


YUCK.
posted by special-k at 5:52 PM on July 8, 2012


headnsouth, do you understand what is being requested?
posted by floam at 6:08 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm having trouble understanding why people who have included little or no information in their profiles about their membership on other sites are opposed to this when it would affect them little or not at all.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:09 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


headnsouth, do you understand what is being requested?

Yes.
posted by headnsouth at 6:12 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm having trouble understanding why people who have included little or no information in their profiles about their membership on other sites are opposed to this when it would affect them little or not at all.

They probably resent any sort of creeping "functionality" that could publish their information without their explicit permission.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:40 PM on July 8, 2012


I see it as a knee-jerk reaction to Gmail logins melding with YouTube logins, and Yahoo logins becoming required for Flickr, and Google Buzz being imposed on everybody whether they want it or not, and everything Facebook has ever done ever. Tap somebody gently on the "creeping identity melding" button and you get a reflexive howl of outrage.

And much like the actual knee-jerk reflex seen in doctors' consulting rooms, I see it as a sign of proper function and good health. People who react this way are people whose Internet instincts are still completely sound.
posted by flabdablet at 7:02 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some of us would feel more comfortable including more information on our profiles if there weren't a constant low-level drive to make every piece of information we share connected to everything else on the web.
posted by winna at 7:03 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ivan Fyodorovich: "Is everyone here understanding what is being discussed with regard to 'social explorer'?"

I think so - but the "social explorer" is really not the issue. Yes, social media stuff is shared in an explorer, but as far as I know geographical information is not. Neither are email addresses. There are reasons for this, privacy reasons and user-beneficial reasons. The point is that profiles aren't cached and can't be easily crawled automatically. Moving data from that space is a significant step.

And, contrary to what modernserf claims, I actually doubt that there is a simple way to do this with a user script, if it's really possible at all.
posted by koeselitz at 7:18 PM on July 8, 2012


This is why my twitter and facebook accounts are no longer in my profile. And why g+ has never been there. Specifically twitter: I did not like seeing my tweets show page on mefi's "recent tweets by mefites" page.

I have no problem with this pony, as long as it is opt-in only and transparency is crystal clear to the end user.
posted by zarq at 7:24 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hi. I'm Dora the Social Explorer.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:40 PM on July 8, 2012


Skyper no Skyping!
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:43 PM on July 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ok, so pretty clear that this isnt going to happen on pb's end. But this is what the user script would do:

Take the contents of this page: http://www.metafilter.com/usersnear/104418 (insert your usernumber here)

And the contents of this page: http://www.metafilter.com/contribute/socialexplorer.mefi?sid=27 (insert your preferred social network here)

and do a logical AND of the links. (Literally the title of this post.) I know that its not a big deal; I want this to be a feature that can be used by the whole community, not just the uber-nerds.

I have a feeling that this is going to horrify the people in this thread who must have NO IDEA that their personal information is listed this way already.
posted by modernserf at 8:11 PM on July 8, 2012


Ok, so pretty clear that this isnt going to happen on pb's end.

We're actually not opposed to the idea, but there are definitely some privacy concerns that would need to be hammered out on the technical side so we're not exposing more info than is currently exposed. This is a handy discussion to have.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:14 PM on July 8, 2012


Ok, so pretty clear that this isnt going to happen on pb's end.

Yeah, I just want to clarify that I don't make any decisions. I listen and weigh in with my opinions, but these aren't my calls to make. This feature is technically possible to implement in a number of different ways, but that doesn't mean we'll do it. There's a lot more to it than technical feasibility, or even how it would be implemented. The harder question to answer with something like this is whether it should be implemented in the first place. We're still having that discussion.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:28 PM on July 8, 2012


modernserf: So you're not actually asking for a true conjunction of the social explorer and geo data - as in, a map, which would require you to run that script a hundred thousand times for all users? You just want to know the social connections within the proximity of your geographical position, sort of like a Girls Around Me kind of thing?

To be honest, the more I think about it, the more I'm bothered by how rapidly the geographical data on Metafilter got expanded and shared in new and unexpected ways. You're right, lots of stalking is already possible. That doesn't mean it's a good thing.

My geographical data has been wrong for a long time now, but at this point I'm just going to remove it and encourage everybody else to do the same. It seems like a bad idea.
posted by koeselitz at 9:02 PM on July 8, 2012


Somehow I knew this would get conflated with "Girls Around Me." Seriously, I just want to be able to filter the social explorer by city. I personally think the exact lat/long system metafilter uses for IRL posts is invasive and fiddly; that's why I gave it the general location of New York City and not my apartment.
posted by modernserf at 9:37 PM on July 8, 2012


To be honest, the more I think about it, the more I'm bothered by how rapidly the geographical data on Metafilter got expanded and shared in new and unexpected ways.

I'm sorry you feel this way. Can you elaborate on this a bit? We have the "nearby users" feature and the Google Earth file. Those have been with us from the beginning of the feature. I'm not sure how else that data is being shared or expanded in unexpected ways. We haven't added any geographic features based on a user's geographic location recently beyond IRL alerts, and those are private.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:06 PM on July 8, 2012


"There are reasons for this, privacy reasons and user-beneficial reasons. The point is that profiles aren't cached and can't be easily crawled automatically. Moving data from that space is a significant step."

There's nothing magical about the profile not being indexed by search engines — it's just a meta directive in the page source. The social explorer could have that same directive if it were filtered by geographical proximity and, in fact, it should already have that directive anyway. (And, now that I check, I see that it doesn't. It definitely should.)

Yeah, I'm sure that modernserf wasn't asking for some world Google Maps interface to every mefite that has listed, say, a Twitter account. I'm pretty sure that he was just asking for the "nearby users" as a filter for a social explorer result. That's why he asked for "nearby users" and not "geographical data".

So, to be clear: imagine that when you go to the social explorer page, besides the drop-down list of external sites, there's also a checkbox labeled "filter by nearby users". And when you check it and select one of the menu selections, instead of seeing all mefites that list that info in their profile (for example, their Twitter account), you only see the mefites that are "nearby" in your profile who also have listed that info in their profiles. No maps. No geographical information. No nothing pulled from their profiles. Just a reduction in the results, where the only ones that show up are those who are near the member who uses the social explorer (and checks the checkbox).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:19 PM on July 8, 2012


And, now that I check, I see that it doesn't. It definitely should.

The Social Explorer is in a members-only section of the site. Search engines are blocked from accessing that page so there's no reason to include a metatag asking search engines not to index it. If you'd like to verify you can log out and then try browsing to the page.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:38 PM on July 8, 2012


I must admit that this sort of thing always surprises me, but I'm way more open with my identity than many others seem to be. I'd have no problem posting my address and phone number, for example.
posted by Justinian at 12:59 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Often in these conversations people make the leap to Facebook, and I would like to point out that MetaFilter isn't Facebook. It isn't designed to specifically target ads to you and collect your data. For many of us it is a useful tool to find others around the world who share our interests, and for people like me who don't have the time to read every word of the site it is useful to help me meet new friends, and it has done that very well. Over the 12 years I have been hear I have met hundreds of you, and I feel this has enhanced my life.

Along with Justinian, I like to be transparent here. I even have an IRL event at my home next month and it maps to my house. I don't fear any of you. If you feel I should, let me know please!
posted by terrapin at 5:00 AM on July 9, 2012


I'd like your chocolate to get in my peanut butter

I am so texting this to my husband while he's at work.
posted by desjardins at 7:54 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's an option for non-script writing minded people: Make contacts of everyone (in your area, or in general) that you'd like to hang out with at other websites too. They get highlighted then on the social explorer so you know of the 2000 mefites, which ones to follow.
posted by garlic at 8:44 AM on July 9, 2012


"The Social Explorer is in a members-only section of the site."

Ah, of course.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:38 AM on July 9, 2012


Plutor's sadly-unmaintained-but-currently-easily-hackable-to-work-in-Chrome "Metafilter mark contact contributions" user script puts a little house icon next to the username of anyone that is in a separately defined radius from your entered location, even on the social explorer.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:39 PM on July 9, 2012


I hasten to add, regardless of whether or not they are defined as a contact.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:39 PM on July 9, 2012


The Social Explorer is in a members-only section of the site. Search engines are blocked from accessing that page so there's no reason to include a metatag asking search engines not to index it. If you'd like to verify you can log out and then try browsing to the page.

So for $5, a search engine could get access to it? Interesting.

I keed, I keed. But it is a valid point nonetheless, in that someone could buy access to the site, scrape the content and post it somewhere a search engine can reach it. Really just one of those "oh hai, there's really nothing you can do to make perfectly private posts" things.
posted by davejay at 4:42 PM on July 9, 2012


pb: “I'm sorry you feel this way. Can you elaborate on this a bit? We have the "nearby users" feature and the Google Earth file. Those have been with us from the beginning of the feature. I'm not sure how else that data is being shared or expanded in unexpected ways. We haven't added any geographic features based on a user's geographic location recently beyond IRL alerts, and those are private.”

I guess I wasn't aware of the other stuff, and didn't realize it had been there from the beginning. Also, the social explorer being there is something I'm kind of getting used to. Maybe it would be good to have a small note on what's being displayed where? I'm not sure.
posted by koeselitz at 11:31 AM on July 10, 2012


The Social Explorer has been around since 2008. We put it together shortly after we added the Also On feature. It's been mentioned quite a bit in MetaTalk in threads about social features, and it's been listed on the wiki since sometime in 2008.

The Google Earth file has been around since 2005: MeFi on Google Earth. Also mentioned frequently in MetaTalk in geography-related threads and listed on the wiki.

These things have been set for quite a while. If you're just discovering them I can understand how you feel like we're moving quickly. But these tools have been around and have been used for years.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:58 AM on July 10, 2012


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